Process Improvement

by Rus Slater

Mapping your process

There is no right or wrong way to go about the actual activity of mapping a process, but the method outlined below is one that is commonly used and it seems to work well.

  1. Tip

    If you are mapping ‘should be’, but you know that there is an ‘as is’, it is wise to map that as well.

    Get together the team who are going to do the mapping, which is normally the people who actually carry out the activities and make the decisions. Depending on the scale of the map (macro or micro) these folk may all be in the same department or they may come from across the organisation.
  2. Make sure that everyone understands the parameters of the task: where are we going to start; where are we going to stop; what level of detail do we want and whether we are mapping the process ‘as is’ or as it ‘should be’.
  3. Stick a roll of brown paper along the wall to map the process onto (here, a horizontal flow alignment normally works best unless you have very tall people and very high walls!).
    Tip

    The reason for using sticky notes, string and sticky putty is that it will allow you to move things as you develop the map during the mapping and improvement stages.

  4. Put up your start point symbol.
  5. Brainstorm all the activities onto large rectangular sticky notes.
  6. Brainstorm the decisions onto square sticky notes, turned through 45 degrees to form diamonds.
  7. Arrange the activities along the brown paper, using string and sticky putty to show the flow.
  8. Check for agreement with all the people who actually use the process or fulfil the activities. Look for concurrency: usually in a process you will find that there are areas where a number of sub-processes are happening at the same time and then coming together when they are all ready (see the example given in From start to finish).

A simple process map for the production of process maps is shown below.

Mapping a process

¹ Identifying the output

² Deciding the scale